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A majestic takeoff sent the new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental soaring skyward on March 20, 2011, allowing her to flex her wing high above the clouds as the new "Queen of the Skies".
The newest version of the iconic Boeing 747 made its inaugural flight after years of hard work from thousands of Boeing engineers, mechanics and technicians, in partnership with aerospace suppliers around the world.
"What a great privilege to be at the controls of such a great airplane on its first flight," said Captain Mark Feuerstein, the 747-8 chief pilot. "And what an honor to share this day with the thousands of men and women who designed and built this airplane."
While the 747-8 Intercontinental retains the recognizable hump at the front of the fuselage, the airplane is 18 feet (5.6 meters) longer than its predecessor. It sports a new, more aerodynamic wing, a cleaner, quieter, and more fuel-efficient engine and a host of cutting-edge technologies.
"Flying such a beautiful machine on a gorgeous day like today on such a perfect test mission is just nothing better than that." Capt. Paul Stemer, Boeing Test Pilot
With its stretched fuselage, the 747-8 Intercontinental is the biggest commercial airplane Boeing has ever built. It can seat 467 passengers in a 3-class configuration, 50 more than its predecessor, the 747-400.
"It flies further. It flies faster. It's more economical and it carries more passengers than ever before," said Elizabeth Lund, vice president and general manager of the 747-8 program. "It really is a fabulous airplane."
Capt. Feuerstein said RC001, the first Intercontinental, was in tremendous shape for a new airplane model, allowing him and fellow Boeing Test Pilot Capt. Paul Stemer to perform test conditions normally reserved for later in a flight test program.
"Doing not only the functional tests we often do on a first flight, but we also stepped out and did some important stability and control conditions that we wouldn't ordinarily do. That's basically a testament to how prepared the airplane was," said Capt. Feuerstein.
"It flies further. It flies faster. It's more economical and it carries more passengers than ever before...It really is a fabulous airplane." Elizabeth Lund, 747-8 Vice President and General Manager
"Flying such a beautiful machine on a gorgeous day like today on such a perfect test mission is just nothing better than that," said Capt. Stemer.
After completing the tests conditions, the pilots brought the Intercontinental to Seattle for a landing at Boeing Field, touching down at 2:42 p.m.
The flight was the first of more than 600 flight hours in the test program for the new 747-8 Intercontinental. The airplane followed a route over Eastern Washington, where it underwent tests for basic handling and performance. The airplane reached a cruising altitude of 19,000 feet (5,791 meters), and a speed of up to 250 knots, or about 288 miles per hour (463 kilometers).
Korean Air and VIP customers have joined launch customer Lufthansa in ordering a total of 33 747-8 Intercontinentals. First delivery of the 747-8 Intercontinental is scheduled for the fourth quarter. Air China also has agreed to order five Intercontinentals, pending government approval.